What we need is a mature national discussion. But what The Conversation (and the Business Spectator) gives us is logic-according-to-Clive, which is a black and white world where complex debates are reduced to yes or no answers and there are no shades of gray. How much will our climate warm? Clive says “Yes”.
Clive Hamilton is an Australian “intellectual” a Professor of Public Ethics and holds the Vice-
Maurice Newman talked about the IPCC, the satellites, Climategate, Renewable Schemes and $100 billion dollar funds. Clive responds:
“Now unleashed, Newman is in full flight mimicking the anti-vaccinators.”
Clive does not refute a single point that Newman makes. He calls him names and merely declares what Newman said was “bizarre”. Clive obviously has no answer and no evidence — he can’t point to models that work, or predictions that were correct, the best he can do is a pop-psychology analysis of “tactics”. It amounts to smear by association. Like saying that Attilla the Hun rode horses, so if you ride a horse you are mimicking Attila.
Indeed the tactics he cites are so meaningless and common, he uses them himself. “Deniers” he says, may portray themselves as David vs Goliath. (And which academic makes out they fight against monster Fossil Fuel interests against a conservative media?) “Deniers” spread theories about cover-ups, and conspiracies. You mean, like saying that Fossil fuel companies are “the most powerful industry lobby we’ve ever seen in Australia”, so powerful that politicians dance to them, and “they’ve captured universities“? (Or they have their own political party and sometimes form government? That would be the Greens.) Who thinks the ABC is biased in favour of skeptics, thanks to “political pressure”? (What kind of bias means skeptics almost never get any airtime and when they do, the editors take the trouble of editing skeptics sentences to produce quotes they never said?)
His thesis of deniers who can’t be persuaded collapses in a hole upon the smallest inspection
Hamilton argues skeptics can’t be persuaded, but if he’d bothered to do any research he’d know that many leading skeptics used to think CO2 might cause a crisis, or used to be active Greens themselves, like me. What about former Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore, or conservationist David Bellamy? Margaret Thatcher set up the Hadley Met Centre, but later become openly skeptical. Environmentalist Lawrence Solomon, or Peter Taylor (who wrote Chill, A Reassessment of Global Warming Theory) are hardly conservative commentators making ideological calls. My other half Dr David Evans, used to work for The Australian Greenhouse Office. “What kind of denier changes their mind? The kind that aren’t deniers.
There are virtually no former skeptics who have become believers, instead there is only a pretender — Richard Muller, who dishonestly makes out he was skeptical, despite obvious quotes of him praising the consensus and calling CO2 “the greatest pollutant”.
Time to turn off the tap
Sensible people would just ignore Hamilton, but it’s time those who channel our tax funds to him need to start explaining how we get value out of his unresearched, untested pop-psychology, used to denigrate half the population and reduce our national debate to name-calling. Charles Sturt University needs to explain if this is the kind of logic it applies to the rest of it’s science research departments. Do they allow Hamilton to teach students? Will they censure him for abusing English and being irrational? The ARC likewise, and all the universities that fund The Conversation, mostly using your money. Academia in Australia is an irrational swamp and it’s time the bog was drained. The Conversation is the megaphone over the mud.
Are you an alumni of any of these? Can you write to the VC and ask why it supports this kind of baseless, fallacious reasoning, abuse of English and derogatory namecalling?
The Conversation is funded by CSIRO, Melbourne, Monash, RMIT, UTS, UWA, ACU, ANU, Canberra, CDU, Curtin, Deakin, Flinders, Griffith, JCU, La Trobe, Massey, Murdoch, Newcastle, QUT, Swinburne, Sydney, UniSA, USC, USQ, UTAS, UWS and VU.
Does this article represent the standards of these universities?
First up, our national institutions need to stop supporting name-callers and start speaking English
In a science conversation the terms ought to be definable. There is no subspecies Homo Sapiens Denier, and can anyone name a single “climate denier” who denies we have a climate? When it comes to “climate change deniers” the only people who deny the climate changes are those who pretend our atmosphere was stable and perfect until 1880 when the first coal powered station lit the furnace. None of these terms have any scientific meaning. They are a cheating abuse of our language designed to stop rational discussion. Don’t protest to the universities that they ought to look closer at climate science (though they should), but instead let’s just start with English. What does higher education mean if universities don’t use accurate English? Does Charles Sturt University support the use of misleading terms, is this part of their training?
Secondly, all university professors ought understand the basics of logic and reason
Again, we don’t need to ask these universities anything about the climate; we need to ask them if logic and reason matter to their science departments. Hamilton is entitled to his view, but shouldn’t we expect him to argue the points rather than post arrant nonsense? Let’s ask those universities if their science departments train their students to know that vaccines are not the climate.
Hamilton’s logical errors:
The only difficult part about unpacking Hamilton’s logical errors is that they are stacked three deep, meaning he rarely makes a pure error, but compounds them — a non-sequiteur is based on both an argument from authority and a false dilemma simultaneously. Do his readers just nod wisely, thinking he has the vibe just right, or do they think “this doesn’t even begin to make sense?”. Maybe Clive’s texts can be used in a critical thinking course to separate the sheep from the goats.
Association Fallacy: This is where Hamilton says that other people who use these tactics about a different issue are wrong, therefore everyone who uses these tactics is wrong. An unrelated group doesn’t trust authority, therefore all groups who don’t trust authority are wrong. Guilt by association (and this is the loosest kind of association) is the wellspring of the darkest nonsense in public debate. Surely the editors ought to see this?
False Dilemma/Dichotomy: Newman is asking for media scrutiny, and wonders why taxpayers are promoting and massively subsidizing for-profit businesses. Hamilton responds that the debate is over and if you don’t accept all costs unquestioningly you are “anti-science”. It is a non-sequiteur, and argument from authority to boot. And it mistakes an economic argument for a scientific one. Like I said, “three deep”.
Argument from Authority: Hamilton argues that it’s wrong to “dismiss the established experts as frauds” as if experts are never wrong. Hamilton does not bother trying to defend his chosen experts or their record. Apparently they are to be accepted without question — which beautifully supports Newman’s point that the climate crusade is a religion. Mostly Hamilton simply restates Newman’s most sensational phrases as if they must be false, without even discussing Newman’s arguments. There is a perfect circularity in the inference that climate crisis is not a delusion because it’s delusional to suggest that it is.
Why not use Hamilton’s own association argument to knock this down? In other instances the experts have been proven to be frauds–the Piltdown Man and Aryan science spring to mind. Therefore all experts in science are wrong, frauds or worse, therefore his climate authorities are wrong and scammers. Hamilton-logic is a bust.
Hamilton starts with a complex multivariable problem; takes the side the establishment leans towards, and exaggerates it to a 100% absolute truth, a gold-star caricature of reality. Should anyone try to raise shades of gray, or discuss uncertainties, call them names, denier, for they do not believe The Dominant Paradigm. This really amounts to him saying the the Government is right about Everything — because anytime the dominant paradigm is wrong, people will use similar tactics to protest. (And who pays Hamilton? The government.)
Those who don’t quote accurately are not debating honestly. Maurice Newman wrote this about the climate debate:
The scientific delusion, the religion behind the climate crusade, is crumbling. Global temperatures have gone nowhere for 17 years. According to climatologist Roy Spencer’s research, “Over the period of satellite measurement, 1979-2012, both the surface and satellite observations produce linear temperature trends which are below 87 of the 90 climate models used in the comparison” – that is, 97 per cent were wrong.
Hamilton’s quote of this paragraph is just two words: “scientific delusion”. The poor duped readers of The Conversation may not be able to see Maurice Newman’s arguments on The Australian site (paywalled?), so Hamilton may actively deceive some of his readers into thinking Newman does not have hard evidence to support his claim. It’s the only way Hamilton could “debate”. Dishonestly.
Hamilton is so desperate he resorts to proof by 80 year old paper: different topic, different people, different era
It is reductio absurdium in action. To try to show that authorities are always right and Newman is wrong about the economics of changing the weather, Clive quotes a study from 1927 about the small pox vaccine. Could he get more bizarre? Did he have to journey back 80 years to find a group who doubted “the government science” as if it was a proof that The Government Scientists are always right? So we must save the climate because some people who are probably dead now were wrong about a medical treatment 80 years ago?
My questions for Clive, Professor of Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University:
- How is it ethical to use public funds to try to shut down debate with name-calling and ill-informed slurs about half the population?
- Don’t you feel any obligation to do some research to support your claims about the group you call “Deniers”.
- Is it ethical to ignore and denigrate half the population for their views, especially when you cannot point to actual evidence (data, not government authorities) that they are wrong?
There is no point in protesting to Hamilton himself, but The Conversation gets government funding and wears the badges of universities which claim to value science and reason. We can allow these universities to keep pouring money down the sinkwell, or we can draw their attention to that which they support and demand that the Deans of Science and the VC’s either explain why baseless namecalling is worth supporting or tell us how they will stop their funds being misused.
Over to you…